Articles in Category: Best of MetalMiner

This week on the London Metal Exchange, the 3-month LME nickel price fell to its lowest level since 2009. It’s certainly not the first industrial metal to hit a 6-year low in this bearish year for base metals.

Free Download: Cut Your Nickel Shipping Costs

There has been a lot of talk recently about nickel’s supply side. Indonesian authorities have not changed their minds about refusing to export raw ore and the ensuing ban on exports of nickel ore to China continues. There is no flow of material between the two countries.

NPI Demand Drops

However, it’s important to remember that China’s nickel pig-iron producers had built up significant quantities of stocks prior to the January 2014 ban, compensating for the supply decrease. At 2 million metric tons, imports of Philippine ore this year are slightly higher than last year but are still nowhere near enough to offset the loss of Indonesian supply.

Chinese demand is weak and global demand, overall, is weak as well. Stainless demand is suffering from the same macroeconomic pressures as other industrial commodities. You don’t need to be an economist to see that. Just by looking at the performance of other base metals, it is clear that a bear looms.

Nickel making 6-year low (3m LME price since 2010)

Nickel’s 3-month LME price has hit a 6-year low. Source: MetalMiner/LME

Nickel is falling to new lows in heavy trading volume. Nickel’s LME fall also coincides with the launch, yesterday, of the Shanghai Futures Exchange nickel contract. Some analysts say the new contract prompted a surge in LME volumes.

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This week we examined several metal/currency movements which were not what they’d outwardly appear to be.

Free Download: Cut Your Zinc Shipping Costs

Whether it’s the supposed zinc deficit, the seemingly sharp fall of the US dollar or the USA dropping to fourth in steel production, our reaction was largely “We know better than to panic about that.”

All the more reason for you to trust MetalMiner for all your metals’ sourcing needs. We won’t steer you wrong 😉


“I swear to God I’m in deficit. No, really!”

Honey, I Shrunk the Zinc Deficit

This week, my colleague Stuart Burns asked where that supposed zinc deficit is? As recently as January major bank HSBC was insisting that the zinc market was in deficit. Even The World Bureau of Metal Statistics said in their February report that the zinc market was in deficit by 262,000 metric tons during the January to December 2014 period, compared to a 95,000-mt surplus for 2013.

Yeah, not so much.

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Welcome to MetalCrawler, your daily fix for industrial metal news, price movement updates and complaints about the design of new buildings. Larry Summers doesn’t like the amount of infrastructure investment and U.S. Steel just learned everyone at the planning commission is a critic.

Wait, That’s All There is?

United States Steel New HQ

Rendering courtesy of Clayco.

Pittsburgh’s planning commission got its first glimpse Tuesday of the proposed U.S. Steel headquarters to be built in the city’s Hill District and they were not big fans. Chairwoman Christine Mondor told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “I’m just concerned that it looks like it could be anywhere,” she said of the new building. “It looks like it could be a suburban office building somewhere.”

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The L-shaped headquarter will prominently use steel and glass, two of the products that have figured prominently in the city’s history, according to developer Clayco. Everyone’s a critic these days.

Summers: Net-Zero Infrastructure Investment in the Western World

Former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers said in a speech at Princeton that investment by major industrialized US and European nations  in infrastructure is not expanding.

“At this moment . . . the share of public investment in GDP, adjusting for depreciation, so that’s net share, is zero. Zero,” Summers said. “We’re not net investing at all, nor is Western Europe. In other words, total federal, state, and local government investment is enough to cover only the amount of wear and tear on bridges, roads, airports, rails, and pipes. Can that possibly make sense?”

MetalCrawler crawls the web for the latest metal news so you don’t have to. We even get that hard to reach metal news from China. Today there’s also more on the Gold Apple Watch and Chile’s copper mining industry.

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UBS Says Chinese Steel Won’t Grow

  • Switzerland’s UBS said in a note  that the bank expects 0% compound annual growth for China’s steel production over the next five years, down from a previous forecast of 1.4%, according to the Financial Times. UBS cut its 2015 forecast for steel’s main ingredient iron ore, already down from $70 a ton to $58 this year, to $59 a ton. UBS said “Iron ore mining companies still forecast China’s steel output to grow at 2.5% Compounded Annual Growth Rate until 2025, but we disagree. Our analysis shows that its steel production has already reached a turning point.”

Better Have Strong Wrists

  • Stephen Pulvirent of Bloomberg News writes that there are many problems with Apple Inc.‘s $10,000 gold version of the Apple Watch, unveiled yesterday. For starters, If you set it’s patented gold-alloy case aside, it has the same sapphire glass display, sensors, and electronics as the $549 Apple Watch. So you’re paying a mark-up of 18 times the lower price for the same thing. Most luxury watches have higher quality parts as well as cases. It’s also “so heavy it feels like a brick.”

Protests Slow Output at Chilean Copper Mine

  • Output at the Pelambres mine of Chilean copper miner Antofagasta Plc. has been cut by about 5,000 tons in the past week due to protests by local villagers who have blocked access to the mining complex, Pelambres said on Sunday. The company told Yahoo Finance UK that a small number of demonstrators from the Choapa Valley, where some local communities blame the mine for water shortages, had hampered normal operations but had not forced a shutdown of the mine.


The new year in metals has already been marked by steep dives in commodity prices, and major changes in the status quo, so why should week three be any different?

Don’t miss this free download of our Monthly MMI® Report, covering price trends in 10 metals markets.

But this week’s story wasn’t about falling commodity prices or the price of oil and how it’s dragging its commodity brethren down. It was, instead, the week of central banking reaction and currency coming back to the fore. Sit back for MetalMiner‘s money market manipulation maelstrom.

Kneel Before the US Dollar!

Lead Forecasting Analyst Raul De Frutos wrote about how the dollar is going nowhere but up and the dollar index just hit an amazing 11-year high this week. Commodities, in turn, hit their lowest levels since 2009, but that’s old news by now. The bigger takeaway was that foreign currencies are now depreciating heavily against the strong dollar.

US Dollar Index since 2000

US Dollar Index since 2000. Source: MetalMiner.

How governments react to their falling currencies could cause major shifts in commodity prices. So, how ARE those governments and central banks responding?

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Just one full week into the New Year, we at MetalMiner were confronted by several situations that have upset the commodity metals status quo. Up was down, left was right, black was… you get the picture.

FREE Download: The Monthly MMI® Report – price trends for 10 metal markets.

Come get used to the newer normal with us.

China Gives in on Rare Earths

The biggest news came as just as few lines in a massive government report out of Beijing. China looks like it’s finally giving up on its long and expensive World Trade Organization fight over rare earths with the US and Japan. A legal skirmish that began years ago. China has been using a rare earths export quota to essentially control prices of the roughly 90% of rare earths that come from its provinces.

While we had expected China to modify the quota since their latest WTO loss early last year, an outright end to the entire quota system coming from a rather mundane government report on January 1st was not expected.


Just like Det. Jane Rizzoli is handcuffed to Dr. Maura Isles, China is handcuffed by WTO rare earths rulings it lost. Source: TNT

So, why would China just give up on its nearly 3-year RE fight? Attrition, mostly. China is a WTO member, too, and keeping up the fight at this point would be like Rizzoli not listening to Isles in the last 5 minutes of an episode when every call she’s made has been right for the first 50 minutes. Even China has a breaking point. Read more

Screenshot from The West Australian's coverage.

Screenshot from The West Australian’s coverage.

Recently, Lynas Corporation founder and chairman Nicholas Curtis signaled that he’s fed up with the down-in-the-dumps, low-price rare earth metal market (our cheeky and unfounded speculation) by announcing his departure from the company after 14 years (according to the West Australian’s reporting).

As both Curtis and MetalMiner say goodbye to the REE market of 2014, we thought we’d take the opportunity to recap the year with a Best of Rare Earths selection.

What the Year in Rare Earths Prices Looked Like


In short, not awesome for Western rare earths producers, such as Lynas and Molycorp. For buyers, the deeply discounted REE complex is only made better by the prospect of going even lower; MetalMiner’s Rare Earths MMI® is having a hard time finding a true floor.

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We’ve already seen shredded steel scrap prices jump sharply at the end of this year, so naturally we all want to know, what will happen to hot-rolled and cold-rolled coil prices in 2015?

2015-metal-price-outlook-splashBelow is an excerpt from our recent report, “2015 Metal Buying Outlook: What Can We Expect for Base Metal and Steel Prices Over the Next 12 Months?

MetalMiner’s HRC/CRC Steel Price Outlook 2015

Despite a rising price trend for both HRC and CRC that began in June 2013, we noted back in January 2014 that the price increase for both forms of coil had started to lose some momentum and, indeed, prices have moved flat/down ever since.


Source: MetalMiner IndX℠

As with other industrial metals, our view on steel prices is kind of neutral. Prices are showing some resilience, but they are not showing significant strength either. We don’t see steel prices significantly rising in 2015 while commodity prices remain low.

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Our MetalMiner IndX tracks worlwide metal prices every day. The global precious metals – palladium, platinum, silver and gold – are followed mainly for their potential as investments, but their appeal as industrial metals came to the fore again this week.

FREE Download: The Monthly MMI® Report – covering the Precious markets.

The film industry, banking transparency, renewable energy technology, cleaner emissions and even rural electrification all exist because of how hard the precious metals work. If you weren’t thanking gold, silver, platinum and palladium yesterday then you should apologize and ask for forgiveness right now!


No catalytic converters without palladium.

No catalytic converters without palladium.

The Solar-Silver Connection

Silver has fallen for much of the last 3 months in the face of a strengthening US dollar, but it may have bottomed out this week after prices bounced back. It wasn’t a weaker currency, though, that came to the rescue. The dollar continues to strengthen. What some are attributing silver’s turnaround to, is higher consumption by manufacturers of crystalline silicon photovoltaic solar panels. Every solar panel contains between 15 and 20 grams of silver. At today’s prices, that’s about $20 per panel.

Read more the heavy gauge steel.

Pickled…like the heavy gauge steel.

Ok, so Lynas Corp. and Molycorp aren’t technically in a fight, and steel is not coming in the crunchy form of your grandmother’s classic dills, and Autodesk…well, Autodesk did announce new applications, so we’ve got nothin’ on that front…but the point is that these are the ties that bind the Best of MetalMiner: Thanksgiving 2014 Edition.

It’s definitely that time of year again: to look back at the most-read stories on MetalMiner over the last quarter or so.

FREE Download: The Monthly MMI® Report – The #1 Resource for Buyers.

So back to that “fight” regarding Lynas and Molycorp…

1. Lifton vs Kingsnorth: Don’t Believe Lynas Corp, Molycorp Hype?

Celebrity Deathmatch Copyright: MTV

Celebrity Deathmatch Copyright: MTV

Our most-read story over the past three months focused on the “Celebrity Deathmatch” of sorts we dreamed up within the rare earth metals sector: that between renowned REE analysts Jack Lifton and Dudley Kingsnorth.

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